Dineout Reviews: August + September 2010

Lift Bar-Grill-View
I finally got to go to Lift in Coal Harbour. NPY took me to Cardero’s nearby but Lift is a whole other dining experience I was privileged to have. We got a table on the second-level patio next to a toasty fireplace, flanked by two heat torches, and looking eastward towards Canada Place, the Port lights, Shaw Tower, and the 2010 harvest moon.

A “bread” basket arrived upon request, filled with skinny cheese sticks and lavash bread/crackers loaded with sesame seeds. We couldn’t stop eating it. To share, we ordered a “sushi platter”. It’s not on the menu but basically we got 8 pieces each of their four maki rolls: ahi tuna-salmon, California, wakame-avocado, dynamite. I didn’t think any of it was particularly special. My entree, though, was the best I’ve had in a long time. The dish was called Sake Kasu Sea Bass, “hari nori crusted sushi rice cake, edamame, shimeji, kobacha and yuzu-miso sauce”. A generous slab of buttery sea bass sat atop a round of salty sushi rice with shredded seaweed adorning the edge. I loved the sauteed edamame, mushroom (shimeji), and cubed winter squash (kobacha). The yuzu-miso sauce was so light and flavourful I couldn’t stop eating it. To top off the meal, I tried the lemon posse, “lemon creme, muesli”. The lemon creme was served in a little bowl and the muesli in another bowl. There was a jelly top layer on the creme that I didn’t enjoy so much; the creme itself was very tasty.

Too bad it was too damn dark outdoors and we were dining with guests so I would not have taken pictures even if I had a real camera.

Long’s Noodle House
Since going to Long’s Noodle about four or five years ago, I’ve wanted to go back. Most of the time, I’ve forgotten that I want to go here and a couple times I tried, most recently on a Tuesday, they were closed! Then, half a week later, we were in the neighbourhood because NPY suggested going to a Shanghai restaurant at Main/23rd from which he had take-out noodles but it was not a happening place on a Saturday evening and he was resigned to go to Long’s nearby on 33rd.

I should be able to tell you how many tables there were since we waited for 25 minutes to get a table for two and not to have to share with another group at a bigger table. Yes, I think there are 9 tables in total and the place seats only about 40. When we come back, we will try to make a reservation as we were frustrated when people with them slipped in and took the next available table we hoped were for us.

The way I ordered was a little funny but I was nervous because we got the Mandarin speaking server instead of the one who spoke Cantonese. The server could understand what I ordered but when she tried to repeat it, I didn’t quite understand it and was reluctant to just nod “yes” to everything. Thankfully NPY took point on the communications, although he told me his understanding is not word-for-word but context! I’m appalled by that!

I hadn’t seen little pots of drunk chicken brought out for the tables while we waited for 25 minutes so I checked if they were available and it became an order for it. I looked through the menu, not finding the exact same name as dishes I had seen in food blogs and figured that some of it was on the all-Chinese chalkboard menu on the wall and I was too flustered to read the 60% I could and figure out if it was right. NPY seemed to urge me to order Shanghaiese dim sum as it’s “the thing to do” but I was reluctant to get XLB that would mean each of us had to eat 3! I showed the server the picture of the shredded bean curd and ordered green onion pancake. As we waited for our food, many hot pots came out that were most definitely for at least four diners and NPY wanted a soupy dish, and it contradicted his mention of dim sum. We also noticed that many tables also ordered a big platter of a braised meat, like a cut of pork on a femur. It was impressive. Since NPY wasn’t enamoured with the shredded bean curd, we at last ordered the ja jiang mian.

We liked the drunk chicken–smells strong, but doesn’t taste it. It’s only $5.95, a good deal since I would never make it. NPY carefully dipped in a spoon and had some of the wine marinade liquid with his rice. NPY did not like the shredded bean curd but he can see why I did. I thought it could substitute as a “noodle” dish but he disagreed so we also ordered the ja jiang mian. The noodles were decidedly not handmade, being the kind of slippery round white type but it was easy to handle the serving. The pork was so flavourful and different tasting from most other ja jiang mians. NPY thought the noodles were a great deal–$6.50– and the shredded bean curd the worst at $10.95. I tend to agree, but I did end up getting quite a bit for leftovers!

Update: We went to Long’s about a month later with NPY’s parents and we were all happy to go in a larger group than we had previously because we could order more! We ordered the Shanghai pork dumplings (小龍包) which came 6 in a steamer and perfect for 4 people. I thought they were perfectly wonderful. The other special dish we ordered was the salted egg yolk crispy rice. I kind of knew it did not come with a sauce as plain crispy rice would to give it flavouring but NPY’s mother was a little surprised but it’s no wonder because the rice was so lovely flavoured–I’m a big sucker for salted egg. Love them. Half of our little dinner group, the men, did not enjoy the crispy rice especially sans sauce; they just didn’t view it as food! It was great to try the restaurant’s award-winning innovative dish, but we found it to be quite pricey at $10.95 for a dish of puffed rice, salted egg yolk flavouring it or not. Only at the end of our meal did we see hot pots being served and when we inquired, we learned that they had to be pre-ordered the day before. Next time!

Pacific National Exhibition (PNE)
Last year, I learned just how much PNE meant to NPY. He grew up living close to the grounds and he and his friends worked there during the summers through high school and college. In 2009, we went five times! Meanwhile, I think it’s a hokey down-to-earth fair where a glimmer of interest may reside in who’s performing at the Family Theatre (Peking Acrobats, magic show, “Riverdance”, Peking Acrobats, in the past 4 years), which C-list singers perform in the nightly concerts, and any innovations to the pyrotechnic show at 10 p.m. (none this year).

I also look forward to the food but after we’ve had the requisite French fries, fresh squeezed lemonades, strawberry slush from the Marketplace (2 for $8), and mini donuts (2 bags for $5), NPY is not keen to continue to pour on the junk food with the things I really want to try: hurricane potato, wiggle chips, and deep fried Oreos/Mars bars!!

However, this year, I got to try two of the three, in any case it seems that hurricane potato has left the fair and turned up at the Richmond Night Market. I got to try wiggle chips when NPY’s sister and mother were along. We seasoned it with both ranch and ketchup powder and perhaps not liberally enough. The sister and I liked it while NPY and the mother did not. It’s wonderfully fresh, mostly crispy and not overly so, and I could have eaten it entirely unseasoned, I liked them so much. On our second and last PNE visit, NPY finally humoured me and we got deep fried Oreos. We were unsure if you only got one $1 Mars bar deep-fried for $5 and in any case, I’m not a fan of that gooey caramel-chocolate candy. We got 4 deep fried Oreos which saved us from the dilemma of who should eat the last one. A poster claimed they would taste like S’mores “but without the campfire dirt” but I beg to differ. They taste like molten Oreos. Nothing more, nothing less. NPY thought they tasted better than than he expected.

Lil’ Sis told me she heard about Deep Fried Butter being served up at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto and we saw that stall in PNE as well! New this year! They are little balls, the size of chocolate rum balls, and are drizzled with some sweet sauce. I would not buy it but might ask the parents if they couldn’t make one for me since they have those industrial deep fryers anyhow….

Summer Night market (a.k.a Richmond Night Market)
In the summer of 2010, hurricane potatoes started to show up at the Richmond/Summer Night Market. I was told that they were not sold at PNE so it was clear where I had to go in order to finally try this fair treat that I’ve long wanted to try. This is the summer I tried wiggle chips and deep-fried Oreos so it naturally follows that I got to try the awe-inspiring hurricane potato.

There were at least two stalls selling the spiral-looking potatoes and fortunately I got one from the first stall I saw, named something like Korean Street Market. The food stall also sold Korean waffles with chocolate or red bean filling. The choice of seasoning was salt+ketchup, spicy Korean, white cheddar, and cheddar cheese. Initially, I chose salt+ketchup because ketchup is my favourite chip flavour but a sample showed that it is made from drizzling ketchup across the spiral and I changed my order to white cheddar and that was a smashing success amongst us. NPY, who bafflingly did not enough wiggle chips (he thought they were burned but they weren’t), appreciated how it was a fresh potato and liked the soft texture the potato maintained. I thought it was a seriously fun way to eat a potato, peeling off the slices with no fear of disturbing the rest of the spiral.

The food stall just a few doors down also sold similar potatoes but instead of employing a mysterious Twist Potato box, the potatoes were coarsely hand-sliced so instead of being the thickness of one quarter, they were about four quarters thick! They were not aesthetically pleasing, probably not as tasty, and consequently not as prosperous at the time as the Korean Street Market stall.

We did not heed a warning that Gyudonya rice bowls were on the small side and ducked in for a light dinner before the Lady Gaga concert we attended. There is a big poster advertising their $4.75 beef bowl so we ordered one and, to balance things out, one veggie bowl that was at least $1 more.

NPY tucked away the beef bowl that was light and nicely seasoned with sauce that infused the bed of rice. I admired how colourful and healthy-looking a veggie bowl was–it’s just the layer of vegetables you see with a glaze of sweet garlic sauce on a bed of white rice. There was no extra sauce but I was sickened–Japanese sauces generally not being a preference at all for me–by the sweetness that I appreciated the plain steamed rice.

NPY celebrated his birthday at the end of September and since he provided no recommendation, I decided that we would try out the French bistro in my area, Pied-a-Terre. Our friend Cari has been to twice and raves about her dining experiences and I have long wondered how I would try their foie gras parfait that’s been listed in Vancouver Magazine’s 100 Things To Eat Before You Die 2008. Here was the opportunity.

Pied-a-Terre was rated quite well on DineHere.ca and I already knew what to order going in. I ordered for us the Alsatian onion pie from the menu and the foie gras parfait with Madeira jelly to start. On my recommendation, NPY order the tenderloin steak frites with marchand au vin sauce and I ordered the duck breast.

From the reviews, I had expected the onion pie to be less a tart but like a quiche. (I still look forward to trying out the famous Alsatian onion tart at Le Crocodile downtown.) It was really tasty, not truly eggy like a quiche, and a good starter for us to share. When I thought parfait I thought of a highball glass but it was served like pate with the jellified part cubed and sprinkled on top. I did not enjoy the Madeira jelly on the side and savoured the ultra-light mousse-textured foie gras on the banal-looking slices of bread (but the encrusted sesames were toasted and fragrant) and the extra baguettes they brought us.

NPY’s steak frites was a good size portion with 2 3-oz.-ish medallions perfectly cooked to order. After the foie gras parfait we may have already been rolling our eyes at the richness for I found the caramelized onions sauce really rich and sweet. His frites, the highlight of the dish for him, was wonderfully seasoned with herbs. Meanwhile, I made good headway into my dish of duck. The duck breast was tender and tasty and the skin was orange-infused and balancing. From the “sides”, I ate all of the frisee, mushrooms, green beans, and sliced potatoes. The duck confit has never been my favourite–NPY said it tasted candied to him and I find it is too “cured” tasting, just not my preference.

On this day..